After the excitement and intrigue of the red ball series, South Africa and England now collide in a five-match ODI campaign that starts on Wednesday and runs through to Valentine’s Day. How romantic it would be for the Three Lions to complete a double series win over the Proteas.
England may have taken that test series 2-1, but a morale-boosting victory in the last (dead) rubber should give this South African side a much-needed shot of confidence heading into this enticing set of matches.
Both of these teams are showing good form in the shorter format of the game having bounced back from test defeats in the sub continent (England in the UAE against Pakistan, South Africa in India) to claim the subsequent ODI trophies.
So it looks likely that a close series is set to follow here.
Bat Beats Ball
The good news for South Africa is that they boast four batsmen in or around the world’s top ten ODI willow-wielders: AB De Villiers (1st), Hashim Amla (3rd) and Faf Du Plessis and Quinton de Kock (joint 11th). With bat dominating ball in recent limited overs series’ from around the globe, this will need to be considered; particularly how this quartet in particular butchered the Indian bowlers to all parts.
There’s a slight concern with this England batting unit, however. The opening pair of Alex Hales and Jason Roy have enjoyed decent if inconsistent starts to life in the blue shirt, averaging 25 and 33 respectively. Question marks remain over James Taylor, who seems to get in and then get out with unerring reliability, but happily for England fans they know what Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler are capable of. They may need to come to the party in a big way here.
The concern for South Africa will be in their bowling stock. Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are out of the series, while Kyle Abbott is set to miss the first two rubbers at least. With Morne Morkel flagging after a tough few months of cricket, he may be rested here. And that would leave the attack in the hands of Kagiso Rabada; a fine talent but quite the burden for a 21-year-old.
England’s own attack will be bolstered by Stuart Broad, whose unbounded hunger for representing his country is commendable. He will be joined by the promising duo of Reece Topley and David Willey, who performed so admirably in trying conditions in the UAE back in November, and the improving Adil Rashid.
So on reflection it could well be an evenly-contested series. A few key battles will go a long way to determining who wins, and in reality it is almost a coin toss as to who will come out on top. The lack of bowling depth in South Africa perhaps hands the power to England, but their fragility at the head of the batting order must be considered.
Instead, let’s take a look at the individual player markets. Top English Batsman is an interesting one – Joe Root is not as prolific as one might imagine in the ODI arena, and so that grants an opportunity to others. In the UAE both Buttler and Taylor’s averages were skewed by big not out scores, so instead lets plump for captain Eoin Morgan, at 4/1, to accumulate runs accordingly.
The Top England Bowler market looks a bit of a coin toss once again – although Broad at 5/1 will be backed considerably, while things look a bit more straightforward when picking out South Africa’s Top Bowler: Kagiso Rabada, who was the leading Proteas wicket-taker in the test series here and in the ODI campaign in India, is available at 3/1.